David Berri's point about the improvement of Jason Thompson got me wondering: exactly how has J.T. improved? What is he doing better this season? There are three key areas I see.
* Handling the ball. Last season, Thompson was basically a non-factor as a facilitator. For a non-featured scorer, he was actually a bit turnover-prone. He has fixed both of those items: he has 26 assists and only 11 turnovers this season. If he can sustain that type of efficient passing production without seeing his turnovers shoot up, that's a huge boon.
* Drawing fouls ... and hitting those free throws. Thompson is earning about two more FTAs per 36 minutes this year. But the bigger improvement has been his free throw stroke: he's gone from 69 percent to 82 percent from the line, which is an incredible jump. His senior year at Rider -- two years ago -- he only hit 58 percent on FTs. (He did hit over 70 percent in two other Rider seasons ... but nothing close to 82 percent.) Can J.T. keep hitting the freebies? Let's hope so. It's a big scoring boost for one of Sacramento's key weapons.
* Collecting offensive rebounds. We had no right to expect Thompson to improve on the offensive glass: he was already 7th in the entire league last year! He collected 11.8 percent of all offensive rebound opportunities as a rookie. This year, he's up to 15 percent, good for 4th in the league. He's averaging a cool five offensive rebounds per 36 minutes, which has helped him peak into the league's top 10 rebounds per game list despite no individual improvement on the defensive glass. J.T. is averaging a double-double right now.
There has been one other stand-out improvement, but credit for this one likely goes to Paul Westphal: Thompson is playing more minutes this season. Last year, J.T. averaged 28 minutes per game. Even after the All-Star Break, when Brad Miller, Shelden Williams and Mikki Moore were exiled, Thompson still averaged less than 32 minutes a game. Thompson's foul rate hasn't lowered significantly (4.9 per 36 to 4.3), but Westphal has decided to keep him on the court for longer stretches. That's helped the per-game numbers reach (to date) All-Star level. And that helps get J.T. the attention he deserves.